It's been a while since I was able to sit down and type out a post, so it's good to get back to it! Poor life decisions, and moving, and having no internet, have made things interesting to say the least. I have been able to get out and hike, and did Mt. Tremont last week, and a Webster/Jackson loop the week before that. I don't have the patience to write out individual ones for those, so let's just assume they were awesome (which they were), and move on to the hike at hand!
Early in the morning, I woke up, in a strange place, with my shit all over the place... oh wait, I'm in a new apartment, and I'm not unpacked yet... that's what's happening. Slept as well as could be expected, had my gear ready to roll, and headed out the door at about 5:50 with Pinkham Notch as my destination. Drizzle and clouds ruled the ride, and I was getting nervous, as the last time I did Huntington, it was a wet mess, and my boots didn't want to provide grip. So I arrived, a bundle of nerves, and awaited my companion for the day, Mike (NH Tramper) from VFTT. We met up outside the visitors center just before 8am, signed in, and headed up. One thing I learned right out of the gate, is that Mike hikes fast! I kept up well enough, and before I knew it, we were making the turn on to Huntington Ravine Trail. The temperature was very nice, but I still ended up a sweaty mess by the time we reached the junction... definitely warmed up! The climb to the floor of the ravine was good, the rocks slick at times, the streams running well, as we passed several nice cascades and pools.
Once we reached the Huntington Fire Road section, the clouds were beginning to lift off of the ravine, still clinging to the top, and the wind was up. Upward we climbed, on drier and drier rock, with clearing skies above, and an undercast off to the east, enveloping the Carters and Wildcats. What started out with apprehension, was turning into a fine day! The Fan was a lot of fun, though we got "off trail" at several points, and upon finding and following the trail off the Fan into the scrub, we decided it would have been easier to just climb up the boulders. The part I was not looking forward to, was the first set of slabs at the top of the Fan. When confronted with them, they were dry, my shoes grippy, and up I went! A far cry from my previous climb! I won't go so far as to say it was easy, but it was a whole hell of a lot of fun, and is definitely deserving of a repeat.
The climb of the headwall passed too quickly, and we made the top at 11am. After a short break, we sallied forth up to the Nelson Crag junction, and out to the Auto Road (to redline the last 100 yards of Huntington Ravine Trail) where the Northern Presidentials greeted us in all their autumn glory. The summit was near, so we pushed on to Ball Crag (the other 6000 foot peak in the northeast), where views remained plentiful and far reaching. It looked like you could reach out and touch the summit from there, so we kicked it into summit mode and headed up. After crossing the road, and the cog tracks, the final push commenced... and just shy of the top, both my quads cramped up something awful! Mike continued on, as I stood back, drank a bunch of water, and willed my legs to cooperate. I then pushed into the throng of humanity swarming the summit at about noon. I knew there was a reason I had only ever hiked up here in winter, and that solo summit, and time alone up top, will always be a cherished memory. Mike patiently waited for me, while I indulged, waited in line, and got a slice of pizza and a Gatorade. We then made a beeline down Crawford Path to a scree wall that offered respite from the wind. Somehow, the pizza survived the quick descent!
From here, we rock hopped down to the Davis Path, and continued onward to Boott Spur, on much less crowded trails. The alpine landscape was spread out before us like a smorgasbord, vast and beautiful, as we hopped from cairn to cairn. Soon we turned off trail to the true summit of Boott Spur, and began our descent. There were many parties still on their way up, which was disconcerting to the both of us, as it was between 1:30 and 2 when we started down... and many of them looked to be rather unprepared, and still headed for Washington's summit. At one point, we stepped off the trail, hopped on rocks (avoiding the alpine flora) to a promontory looking down to the floor of Tuckerman Ravine, splashed with fall color. Not long after that, we met up with two gentlemen (Charlie from Connecticut and Ned from Manchester), who had hiked up Nelson Crag Trail and were looping back around. They ended up hiking down with us the rest of the way, and good conversation and laughs were had by all. We also noticed a giant line of hikers going up the summit cone on Tuckerman Ravine Trail, and I imagined them all walking in step to the music, kicking, and saying "HEY!".
This was a triumphant return to Huntington Ravine for me, conquering that which instilled so much fear in me the first time, and having a blast doing it. Thanks to Mike for inviting me along, I'll hike with you anytime man!